Cattleman, Dan Hollis, is tricked into an ambush by trigger-slammers in the main street of Baxter. It seems only a miracle could save him from an ugly death. To Hollis the intervention of Cactus Jim Clancy at that crisis in his unhappy life might well have been that miracle.
The Cactus Jim Clancy westerns were originally published in hardback, all by W.A. Allen except the last two. The second-last published by Jenkins, and the final book by Hale. W.A. Allen did put some out under their paperback imprint too. Panther Books began a run of five paperbacks starting with Colt Fever. The first Cactus Jim Clancy book appeared in 1949 and the last in 1973.
I guess it won’t be a surprise to anyone to discover that Stetson Cody is a pseudonym. The author behind the name being Leonard Gribble who also wrote westerns as Lee Denver, Landon Grant, Chuck Kelso, and Steve Shane.
Colt Fever is the first book by Gribble I’ve read.
The story is very traditional. Clancy is a range detective looking out for his employers’ interests and arrives in Baxter to discover why Hollis hasn’t been paying back his loan. The plot is standard fare. It’s a range grab tale with a couple of twists and turns thrown in for good measure. Gribble’s prose is of its time, fairly hardboiled with a lot of western colloquialisms that come from the pulps. These add a neat flavour to the tale.
Gribble mixes the range grab plot with a subplot involving a con-artist and his sister, who are being pursued by an undercover detective. There is also a strong role for another woman, Clarice who is Hollis’ wife. She is sleeping with the Jud Allen, the man who wants to take over the Hollis ranch. Allen also has more problems in that one of his hired guns is attempting to horn in on his business. As various characters set up plans to double-cross each other, so the story becomes more complicated before all the plot threads combine to bring about a satisfactory ending.
I was surprised to find that Cactus Jim Clancy wasn’t in the book that much. Gribble mainly tells the story through the other characters and Clancy just pops up now-and-again to orchestrate the way to deal with problems. He does get involved in some of the gunplay too.
Overall, I found this to be an entertaining enough read to want to read another, but maybe not straightaway.